Posts Tagged pulp
These blog posts are getting so far apart you could sail the Titanic between them. One of these days I’ll get a decent posting schedule going. At the moment I’m chest-deep in edits for Don’t Be a Hero, so between that, uni work, seeing The Avengers, and being lazy, blogging has once again fallen by the wayside.
But that’s not why I’ve gathered you all here today. Lately I’ve been watching a lot of B movies from the ‘50s and ‘60s, and I’ve been thinking about the decline and resurrection of low-budget films and books. From about the 1920s to the 1980s, the public consumed this sort of stuff by the crate-load. Sure, a lot of it was low quality, but there was a special kind of rough-and-tumble magic in these cheaply-produced and cheaply-sold works. Often these works were lurid, touching topics deemed inappropriate or distasteful by the more prestigious producers, but they were gobbled up by the public. For novels and short stories, this was the domain of the pulps and the dime novels. It was the birthing ground of many of today’s staple genre tropes, including hardboiled private eyes, intrepid space explorers, and prototype superheroes. These cheaply-produced books and magazines made the careers of many writers like Edgar Rice Burroughs and Raymond Chandler, and readers devoured them. Not only that, but early lesbian pulp novels were some of the first books to explore lesbian characters and relationships (even if many of them were little more than soft porn written by heterosexual men) since the pulps were not respected enough to bother censoring. These books became highly important in the lives of many lesbians in a time when coming out was almost impossible in many communities.
Lagging a decade or two behind, the film industry started doing the same thing. In the 1940s came the rise of the B movies, and later the exploitation films, the drive-ins and the grindhouse theatres. These movies covered a broad range of genres, but violence, sex, and giant man-eating blobs were never far away. While Hollywood was the major force in cinema, many international filmmakers were cutting their teeth on B movies. In Japan, actors in Godzilla costumes rampaged through models of Tokyo, and giant space turtles with rockets for legs became friends with Japanese children. And in Italy, cannibals and zombies broke open skulls and devoured brains that looked suspiciously like spaghetti. Like with lesbian pulp fiction, these films were considered to be of low importance, so they often managed to skirt the edges of the Hayes Code that was effectively censoring Hollywood through the middle of the twentieth century. Like the pulps, many filmmakers started out making such fare, producing pictures with little financial risk. And audiences revelled in their schlocky goodness.
But through the 70s and 80s, these forms of entertainment began to decline. Small studios and publishers got bought up by larger ones, and those ones were bought by even larger corporations. It became more difficult for smaller studios and publishers to gain enough distribution to turn a profit. Budgets for producing books and movies began to increase, and as more money was sunk into their creation, these stories had to have broader and broader appeal to cover their costs. And without a doubt, some incredible books and films were made during this period, fully making use of their huge budgets to get the best people and equipment money could buy. But something was lost, as well. Many gems surely went uncreated as the old millennium turned into the new one and B movies and pulp magazines were pushed to the wayside.
But the times, they are a’changing. With the move to digital distribution, projects that might be too niche to justify large-scale physical distribution can still attract an audience. We have web-based shows and movies emerging, such as The Mercury Men and the fantastic Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. Books that might never get published by a large publisher can now be produced independently or by a small house at a fraction of the cost. Creators of these low-budget films and books can afford to do unusual things and reach small niches without risking the tens of millions that might be spent by a large studio.
I don’t think we’ll see the disappearance of big publishers and Hollywood studios. There will always be profit in providing stories that appeal to large portions of the public, if the company can operate effectively and efficiently. And I think this is a good thing. Some of my favorite books and movies are very popular. But I also predict that in the next 10 years we will see an even greater rise in the prominence of independently-produced books and movies. I expect movies to lag behind ebooks a little, as the costs of entry for producing a movie, no matter how low-budget, will always be lower than writing a book. But technology has advanced and become cheaper, and now almost everyone has a computer capable of acting as a basic film editing studio. And with services like Netflix, paid digital distribution of movies will become commonplace, eliminating many of the distribution difficulties faced by small studios.
And as these new and different books and movies start becoming more widely available, I think we will also see topics that were once niche becoming mainstream. Look at the box office right now. At the top of the charts we have a continuity-driven movie about superheroes—something that has long been the realm of geeks and nerds—that was written and directed by Joss Whedon, a man that has a significant cult following but never quite broke into the mainstream. Now The Avengers is poised to gross ONE BILLION DOLLARS (read that in a Dr. Evil voice). And it deserves it, too. 10 years ago, who would’ve figured this would be happening today?
So I’m excited. The world is changing fast. There are more opportunities out there for creators than ever before. And I want another Gamera movie.
Truth is, I’ve been trying to cut down on my internet time in order to get more writing done. I love the internet. I really do. There are so many interesting, hilarious, and occasionally educational things out there that it’s a constant battle to actually turn it off and walk away. So in order to actually use at least some of my non-university-related time for writing, I’ve had to force myself to limit my internet time across the board, and that includes things like blogs and Twitter.
Fortunately, it’s been paying off. Here’s where I’m up to at the moment:
Don’t Be a Hero: First Draft Complete!
Since I finished up The Man Who Crossed Worlds, I’ve been working on my superhero novel, Don’t Be a Hero. Set in an alternate New Zealand in 1969 after superheroes have fallen from grace, the novel follows the adventures of ex-heroes Spook and the Carpenter as they make a living doing the sort of private detective work that normal humans are incapable of. They think they’re taking on a simple case to tracking down the kidnappers of a metahuman teenager. But they are about to be drawn into the machinations of a supercriminal gathering the remnants of the golden age of superheroes to his banner by whatever means necessary. A supercriminal intent on changing the world forever. A supercriminal with nothing to lose.
Unfortunately, the first draft of Don’t Be a Hero took much longer than I anticipated. My writing slowed almost to a halt over the Christmas period, and it wasn’t until late February that I actually managed to get the damn thing finished. The final word count came in at a little over 110k words, although I expect that will grow a little on subsequent revisions as my endings tend to run short on the first pass.
I have to admit I was feeling a little exhausted by the time I finished. This has taught me that I get a bit run down if a project goes on too long. I’m absolutely in love with the book, but I need to take a break from it before I get started on the second draft. Which brings me to what I’m doing now.
The Man Who Walked in Darkness: First Draft 50% Complete!
The second Miles Franco book picks up about six months after the events of The Man Who Crossed Worlds, and follows Miles trying to pick up the pieces of his life. But he’s only just starting to get things together when the cops show up again. But not to arrest him this time. They’re here to inform him that his friend, the jazz singer Claudia Hennel, has been killed. Haunted by the things he’s done and determined to get revenge, Miles sets out to find the killer. But in Bluegate, nothing is ever as simple as it seems. And the world is changing. All the worlds are changing.
Writing for The Man Who Walked in Darkness has been a lot smoother. I’ve given myself a word count goal per day that means I’ll get the draft done in a reasonable amount of time without burning myself out or compromising other areas of my life. So far, I’ve managed to keep to that pretty well. My current word count *checks Scrivener* is 47,430 words of an estimated 90,000 or so total. So I’m over halfway there. I’m having a lot of fun being back in Miles’ head, and he is–of course–getting into all sorts of trouble.
The plan is to complete the draft of The Man Who Walked in Darkness sometime during April (fingers crossed), take a short break, then jump back into revisions for Don’t Be a Hero. From then on it’ll be an editing frenzy of Hero and then Darkness. Unlike some writers, I actually enjoy editing. It’s great to have the framework of the story already there, and now I get to build it into something beautiful and awesome. I’m looking forward to it.
If people are interested, sometime soon I might do a post about how I do my outlining and writing. I’ve got rows of index cards stuck to my wall next to my computer to show the scenes, acts, and major characters of Darkness, and it’s begging to have a photo taken. We’ll see what happens.
I almost forgot (actually I did forget and I had to come back and edit this post), if you want to find out as soon as either of these books are released, sign up to the mailing list on the top right hand side of the page. I’ll fire off an email to you when they’re available. Don’t worry, I’ll only email you when there’s a new release and no one else besides me will have access to your address, so I won’t be spamming you. Anyway, thanks guys.
Stay classy, everyone.